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Robot conductor YuMi steals the show from Andrea Bocelli 

YuMi, designed by robotics firm ABB, based in Zurich, was taught to mimic maestro Andrea Colombini's gestures for the world first performance by a two handed automated conductor.

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli's voice soared to the rafters of a Tuscan theatre, but all eyes were on YuMi, the automated conductor beside him.

The robot with the apparent penchant for Verdi took part in a world first, using its  two mechanical arms to direct the orchestra.

The Swiss-designed system swept its baton skywards with one hand, while the other curved around in a caress spurring on the strings as the operatic La Donna E' Mobile, or Woman Is Fickle, reached its climax.

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli's (front of stage) voice soared to the rafters of a Tuscan theatre on Tuesday, but all eyes were on YuMi, the automated conductor beside him (foreground of image) during a world first performance by a two armed robotic maestro

YUMI'S TRAINING 

YuMi, whose name is derived from the phrase 'you and me', was taught all the movements by conductor Andrea Colombani.

He held its arms in rehearsals so the computer could memorise the correct gestures.

Training YuMi to perform six minutes of music took 17 hours of work.

When the robot gets stuck it takes 25 to 30 minutes to reset it.

But the traditional vitality of a human conductor, keeping tempo with the whole body, even through the breathing, is missing from YuMi's technique. 

World famous Tenor Bocelli. had to remember the tempo YuMi had been taught down to the second.

Any unscheduled increase or decrease in tempo would have been disastrous for the  visually impaired singer, as he had no way to get the conductor to follow his lead.

The concert at Pisa's Verdi Theatre on Tuesday took place as the grand finale of the first International Festival of Robotics.

But music lovers beware, YuMi can conduct set pieces, but cannot improvise, react or interact with the musicians. 

YuMi, designed by robotics firm ABB, based in Zurich, was taught to mimic maestro Andrea Colombini's gestures.

'It was extremely difficult to train,' said maestro Colombini, the conductor of the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra which performed with Bocelli and soprano Maria Luigia Borsi.

'YuMi has a high level of gesture and fluidity in its movements, as well as an incredible nuance of expression.

'It is an incredible step forward given the normal rigid gestures seen in robots up until now,' he told the Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper. 

The maestro said the automaton was far more sophisticated than its 'rival' Asimo, the white four-foot (1.2-metre) robot designed by Honda which conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2008.

'We're not talking about Asimo's limited up-and-down, one-arm movement, YuMi is extremely flexible and its arms have the same mobility as mine,' he added.

YuMi does not stand, but rather sits on a pedestal that gives it the support it needs to move its long arms.

It's not a particularly friendly looking robot, and maestro Colombini acknowledged that they did not get on at first.

'It was not love at first sight.  

'At the start I kept getting wound up because it kept getting stuck, and when the robot gets stuck it takes 25 to 30 minutes to reset it,' he said.

'It took a long time,' he added, 'training YuMi to perform six minutes of music took 17 hours of work.'

YuMi, whose name is derived from the phrase 'you and me', was taught all the movements by Colombani, who held its arms in rehearsals so the computer could memorise the correct gestures.  

The robot conducted three of the 18 pieces performed on Tuesday night, including the famous aria La Donna e' Mobile, from Verdi's opera Rigoletto

The concert at Pisa's Verdi Theatre on Tuesday took place as the grand finale of the first International Festival of Robotics

The Swiss-designed system swept its baton skywards with one hand, while the other curved around in a caress spurring on the strings as the operatic La Donna E' Mobile, or Woman Is Fickle, reached its climax

World famous Tenor Bocelli (pictured in a stock image) had to remember the tempo YuMi had been taught down to the second. Any unscheduled change in tempo would have been disastrous for the visually impaired singer, as he had no way to signal the conductor

Ms Borsi looked apprehensive as she stood in her pink concert gown, waiting for the robot to begin directing the classic soprano aria O Mio Babbino Carom or Oh My Beloved Father, by Puccini.

The musicians watched for the machine's first baton stroke and followed it throughout the aria.

But the traditional vitality of a human conductor, keeping tempo with the whole body, even through the breathing, is missing from YuMi's technique.

Bocelli, who is visually impaired, had to remember the tempo YuMi had been taught down to the second.

YuMi (right) was designed by robotics firm ABB, based in Zurich, and was taught to mimic maestro Andrea Colombini's (left) gestures. He held its arms in rehearsals so the computer could memorise the correct gestures

Training YuMi to perform six minutes of music took 17 hours of work. When the robot gets stuck it takes 25 to 30 minutes to reset 

Any unscheduled increase or decrease in tempo would have been disastrous, as he had no way to get the conductor to follow his lead.

'There's no way it could replace the sensitivity and emotion of a conductor, because a robot has no soul. 

'It's just an arm, not the brain, not the heart,' maestro Colombini said.

Later, when the conductor himself takes to the stage, his whole body swayed and thrusted, a notable difference to the automaton.

'There's not much room unfortunately for improvisation, you have to go with the robot,' said American violinist Brad Repp, who took part in the concert.

'It's a cool effect, but there's no way this could be the future,' he added.

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